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Super Bowl…

…the Big Day is finally within sight.  The two weeks between the Championship games and the Super Bowl seem like an eternity, no?  Well, I suppose it is only that way for the fans of the participant teams anyway.  Sorry to you also-rans!

So we all know what happened by now in the Conference Championship games.  The Los Angeles Rams stole one from the New Orleans Saints…or did they?  And the New England Patriots held off the Kansas City Chiefs.

Back to the Rams.  Everyone has been talking like they shouldn’t have beaten the Saints.  All because of that non-penalty call on Nickell Robey-Coleman.  Sure, it was a penalty.  Sure, it should have been called.  And sure, the Saints would have been almost able to run out the clock after that.

BUT, everyone seems to forget that New Orleans had a 13-0 lead early on.  PLUS, it should have been 17-0, or even 21-0.  Are the Rams coming back from that deficit if it occurred?  Not so sure about that.

Ok, the Saints couldn’t get to 21-0, so I guess the point is not applicable.  But they had several chances to put the game away early on.  And didn’t capitalize.  So although they did get kind of screwed late, let’s not forget the rest of the game.

As for the Pats, well, that one was an Instant Classic.  Their defense dominated early, then Patrick Mahomes started lighting it up all over the place.  The Patriots absolutely got a few breaks, but hey, that’s what has happened to them during this Bill Belichick/Tom Brady run.  So I think everyone needs to accept it already!

All kidding aside, what a game.  But that has been analyzed left and right, top to bottom, so no need to dig down deep on it two weeks later.

Let’s focus on the present…and the immediate future…

New England (-2.5) “at” Los Angeles Rams

Let’s be honest right off the bat.  We are not going to sit here and pretend that we watched a ton of Ram football this season.  Certainly not any film, breaking down the line play and such.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t give some opinions, bogus or not!

We can say at 13-3, it was a helluva a season, sneaking out from the NFC Championship or not.  They scored the second most points in the NFL.  Explosive.  And since they will be playing indoors, that’s something that needs to be noted.

Sean McVay gets all the credit.  Boy genius and all that.  And he’s good.  But I have to tell you that having Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator on his side kind of scares the bejesus out of me.  I heard on the radio this week that the Pats have chewed up Phillips’ defenses on occasion.  Unfortunately, I only seem to remember Phillips being able to shut Tom Brady and the New England offense down.  Not sure why that is…guess it’s the recurring nightmares…ok, that was a little strong.

But Phillips and his crew do scare me a bit for sure.  Aqib Talib is pure gold when he speaks.  But he’s pretty f’n good when he’s on the field too.  Aaron Donald?  No explanation necessary.  Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters…there are some names out there.  And if they play to their capabilities, it feels like they can dominate.  Maybe that’s just me looking at names.  But still…

Robey-Coleman?  Nah.  Brady will look to torch him of course because of his comments earlier in the week…where he called Brady old and all.  And maybe Tom will.  But if NRC is covering Chris Hogan or Cordarrelle Patterson or Phillip Dorsett, Brady may not be able to take advantage of even that matchup.

Everyone always points to the fact that Bill Belichick has two weeks to prepare for this game and should dominate because he is so much smarter than everyone else.  But doesn’t the other team have the two weeks to prepare as well?  And what happened last year against the Philadelphia Eagles, when Bill had two weeks to prepare…and somehow thought that Johnson Bademosi and Jordan Richards were better options to have on the field than Malcolm Butler?  Yup…

What if Phillips comes up with a great game plan?  Maybe put Talib on Rob Gronkowski?  Like the Pats did when he was here, putting Aqib on Jimmy Graham.  Yeah, Gronk may not be Gronk this year.  But he is still dangerous.  Wade can come up with something himself in these two weeks.

But here is the twist…I think the Patriots try to run the ball down the Rams’ throat.  Just like against the Chiefs.  Time of possession.  Keep the explosive offense off the field.  Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, a little bit of James White and some old fashioned James Develin blocking.  Then unleash Brady when appropriate…although hopefully without that brutal interception at the goal line against KC.

Will it work?  No idea.  But expect a fair amount of those screens to White and Julian Edelman as well.  With Aaron Donald poised to wreak some havoc, Brady may not have a ton of time to throw.  Then again, the Pats line has played well.  Maybe Dante Scarnecchia comes up with another gem.

Although the Pats did not do this nearly as much as I would like this year, I have a feeling we see the hurry-up offense a little more on Sunday.  Yes, I did just say I feel like they will try to win time of possession by running the ball, so why the hell would I say that they will hurry up?  Welp, doesn’t mean that they won’t run the ball out of the hurry up.  I’m just thinking they will try to tire that D-Line out even more…by not allowing them to substitute.  Work quickly, but still eat clock.  I don’t know, just a gut feeling there.

The Rams may try to run the ball too.  Not exactly a Patriot strength.  But is Todd Gurley anywhere near 100%?  Doesn’t seem it.  C.J. Anderson has been nice.  But he’s not Gurley.  Especially catching balls out of the backfield.  Jared Goff will most assuredly go downfield more, but if Gurley is good to go, watch for plenty of short passes to him with the likes of Elandon Roberts trying to cover him.  Not ideal.

That being said, my guess is the Pats will let the Rams do what they please with the running backs and prevent guys like Brandin Cooks from getting by them deep.

One more thing to consider:  History.

This game will be played 17 years to the day after the Pats won their first Super Bowl against the high flying…St. Louis Rams.  Brady can win his sixth Super Bowl.  Would be a nice bookend.  The Pats can tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most wins in Super Bowls.  Etc.  Food for thought.

Experience?  Yeah, it can matter.  Talent usually wins out in the end, however.  Of course, lack of experience in this setting can make even the best dudes make the wrong decisions in crunch time.  Something to think about as well.

The Patriots are playing their “no one respects us” card again.  Kind of silly, but whatever works.  Hopefully, they are using last year’s Big Game as motivation too.  They should be.  Throw in the fact that the team could look a little different next year.  I know, every team looks a little different each year.  And Brady already said there is zero chance he is retiring.  But Gronk might.  And Devin McCourty threw that word around this week…though I am not sure that is likely.  But Dev and guys like Dont’a Hightower do have high cap numbers next year and aren’t the same players.  Could they be cut?  Trent Brown and Trey Flowers could cash in elsewhere.  There could be more turnover than usual next year.  And a 42-year-old quarterback that showed some decline this year, whether he wants to admit it or not (yes, I said it).

Some of us have been saying it for a while, but it is appropriate.  This really could be the New England Patriots’ “last hurrah”.

I expect they will take advantage of it.

New England 34, Los Angeles Rams 30.

Week (against the spread):  1-1

Week (straight up):  1-1

Season (against the spread):  146-120

Season (straight up):  170-96

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Patriot Free Agency (in)action, Offense…

As promised (threatened?), we will provide a snapshot of the New England Patriots roster as it stands now.  Of course, there will be plenty of informative comments following each position group.  Define the word “informative” as you may, but I’ll feel good about them anyway.

For the record, we will say where the player came from if they are an addition and where they went if they jumped ship.  We will also note if they finished last season on the Patriots injured list (IR) or on the Patriot practice squad (PS).  Just cuz I want to be informative, as I said…yup…

Enough of the nonsense, let’s get to it:

QB:

Holdovers:  Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Arrivals:  None

Departures:  None

In limbo:  None

Comments:  Everyone knows that Brady will be 41, Jimmy Football was traded for a bag of footballs and a tackling sled and that Hoyer stinks.  Not to mention that Jacoby Brissett was also traded last year for probably something less than Garoppolo.  Even though I keep hearing from some talking heads recently that Phillip Dorsett actually had a pretty good year “…when he played…he was actually open a lot, Brady either didn’t see him or just didn’t throw it to him…”  Ok, if you say so.  In any event…an obvious need at some point…and soon.

I’d take a QB fairly high in the draft.  Someone who the team thinks has potential to be that proverbial “next guy”.  Not taking one just to take one.  Brady (and his wife) were doing some whining on his little Facebook thing and some people took that to maybe mean he doesn’t plan on playing until he’s 125 like he has always said.  I don’t buy it.  It’ll all work out and he will be around for a while.  If they draft a dude now, they will have time to groom him.  It’s supposed to be a deep quarterback draft, but what do I know?

And no, I would pass on signing Matt Cassel or Matt Moore or any other Matt that is a veteran stiff…in case you were wondering.

Bottom line?  Still in pretty good shape here, wouldn’t you say?

RB:

Holdovers:  Rex Burkhead (re-signed), James Develin (FB), Mike Gillislee, James White

Arrivals:  Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati)

Departures:  Dion Lewis (Tennessee)

In limbo:  None

Comments:  We talked enough about Lewis yesterday.  Hill has regressed from his fantastic rookie year in 2014 for the Bengals.  But from what I understand, the Pats are on the hook for very little if he doesn’t pan out.  I feel like Gillislee deserves another shot and I want to see more Rex.  I feel ok with this collection…especially in this offense…and especially if they all keep Brandon Bolden off of the field.  Moving on…

WR:

Holdovers:  Kenny Britt, Brandin Cooks, Phillip Dorsett, Julian Edelman (IR), Chris Hogan, Cody Hollister (PS), Riley McCarron (PS), Malcolm Mitchell (IR)

Arrivals:  Cordarrelle Patterson (Oakland)

Departures:  Danny Amendola (Miami), Bernard Reedy (released)

In limbo:  None

Comments:  I’m not going to deny they will miss Amendola to some degree, especially when the chips are down.  But again, we went through all that yesterday.  I will also add that I am not sure that throwing multiple mediocre bodies at the end of the depth chart will help that cause.  But that’s me.

If the depth chart shows Cooks, Edelman, Hogan and Mitchell, assuming good health of course (a BIG assumption), do we really need Britt, Dorsett or Patterson?  Plus, McCarron has been getting a lot of love recently.  How many receivers can you carry?  What exactly are the first three bringing you anyway…especially if they are the 5th receiver on the depth chart?

That’s just it I suppose…depth.  Who knows where Edelman and Mitchell will be health-wise going forward?  I know, there appears to be little risk with the aforementioned three veterans, financially or otherwise.  And I know, Patterson is a dynamic kick returner.  Though I will agree with the talk radio chatter on Monday where it was pointed out that kick returns are a very small part of the game these days.

I have no inside info on the situation.  But I have a feeling there may be another shoe to drop here before camp opens.  There has been some smoke revolving around Cooks’ status for a couple of weeks now.  Cooks was up and down last year and my feeling is that he will improve in his second year in the system.  And none of those three vets mentioned appear to have the ability of Cooks.  But I suppose you never know…

TE:

Holdovers:  Dwayne Allen, Rob Gronkowski (we think?), Jacob Hollister, Will Tye (PS)

Arrivals:  None

Departures:  Martellus Bennett (IR, released)

In limbo:  None

Comments:  I do believe we have to take Gronks’ retirement “threats” seriously.  Despite being a monster, he has taken quite a beating over his NFL career.  And despite all the back surgeries, there is no doubt that the back will always hang over his head at least a little.  I’m betting that throwing a little money at him will get him back into the fold mentally though.  Isn’t that always the case?

Speaking of money, I am absolutely stunned that Allen is still here.  5 mil against the cap next season.  Was he that good a blocker?  Is he just hanging around in case Gronk does retire?  I don’t see it.  That’s money better spent elsewhere.  I know Hollister and Tye aren’t appealing backup options if Allen departs.  But there has to be someone else out there that is.

Let’s make Gronk happy and find a young tight end somewhere.  Not an extremely pressing area of need (unless Gronk walks of course), but definitely a position to keep an eye on.

OL:

Holdovers:  David Andrews (C), Marcus Cannon (T), Cole Croston (T), James Ferentz (C, PS), Antonio Garcia (T, IR), Andrew Jelks (T, IR), Ted Karras (G/C), Jason King (G, PS), Shaq Mason (G), Joe Thuney (G)

Arrivals:  Matt Tobin (T) (Seattle)

Departures:  Nate Solder (T) (New York Giants)

In limbo:  Cameron Fleming (T), LaAdrian Waddle (T)

Comments:  We ranted on Solder yesterday and I’m done talking about it.  The other four members of the line return.  It’s a solid, if unspectacular, group.  So obviously the focus is on finding a new left tackle.  And once again, I am not going to get worked up about it.  Dante Scarnecchia and the team should be able to figure it out.  Maybe it’s one of these guys above.  Maybe it’s a draft pick.  Maybe it’s someone released over the summer or early in camp.  Who knows?  Maybe I am being naive (or just plain stupid), but I am simply not concerned about it.

People are also seemingly terrified of losing Waddle and/or Fleming.  Seriously?  These guys were released in recent years.  Now they are all of a sudden irreplaceable?  Mystifying.

These guys are going to be alright next season without Solder.  I feel like that isn’t even going out on much of a limb, to be honest…

Next:  The Defense.

 

Much better…

…we’re talking about both the New England Patriots’ performance last Sunday against New Orleans, as well as the Blowhard’s Week Two pick performance (did anyone notice we predicted the exact score & winner of the KC/Philly game?  No?  Not surprised…but it happened!).

Now, we don’t necessarily have to go back and entirely analyze the Pats game from four days ago.  But it was good to see the team get back to doing things that we know they are capable of doing.

However, I wouldn’t say all their problems are solved.  And that’s ok, because it is still September.  Plenty of time still to figure things out.  But it was disappointing to see the offense kind of sputter a bit in the second half against a historically bad Saints defense.  That’s one that stands out to me.  They should have put up 50 against that putrid outfit.

Of course, the injuries didn’t help.  Looked like Rex Burkhead was going to be a big part of the game plan.  He left early.  Phillip Dorsett was getting himself involved, then he left a little later.  No need to even talk about Gronk…we know he is an injury waiting to happen.  Every team has injuries and we will see what happens with these guys…including Danny Amendola and Dont’a Hightower, who of course did not play.  As well as Eric Rowe, who also left the game early.  But they seem to be hitting the Pats early this year.

More importantly, what is up with the playing time of Malcolm Butler and Alan Branch?  Is Butler already starting to be “phased out”, seeing that he won’t be here next year?  Is Branch causing problems somehow, as he has been wont to do in the past with other teams?  Curious dip in PT for these two.  And why did the team even sign David Harris when he has only played three snaps in the first two games…and the linebacking corps is suspect to begin with?

And where is Brandin Cooks?  The team dressed only 3 wide receivers and Dorsett eventually went down.  Plus, Burkhead apparently was going to play some receiver and he went down early.  And Cooks only had 2 catches (4 targets).  Seemed to me this was a game to get him involved more.

I won’t even start on Stephen Gostkowski.  3-3 on chip shot field goals, yes, but were any of them straight?  Another missed PAT and I’m not sure the other three made PAT’s were straight either.  And please recall that the game was played indoors.

Perhaps that is a little nitpicking for the second week of the season.  But they are all relevant talking points.  In any event, we are happy with the win, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

As for Week Three, here’s where we begin:

Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) at San Francisco

Another banner Thursday night game.  This could possibly be a worse matchup than Texans/Bengals last Thursday night.  Sure, the Rams have shown improvement from last year in their first two games of this season, but is anyone buying into them yet?  Sure, the Niners played the Seahawks close last week, but they have scored TWELVE points thus far this season.  Brian Hoyer is locking down that quarterbacking job at this point, I suppose that explains some things.

It’s a divisional battle, so maybe that’s something to grasp hold onto.  The color rush thing is kind of stupid, but if you like it then you can cling to that too.  But this sure smells like another Thursday night stinker.  Will I watch it though?  You bet!!

Los Angeles Rams 17, San Francisco 9.

Week (against the spread):  10-6

Week (straight up):  13-3

Season (against the spread):  16-15

Season (straight up): 22-9

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